Not sure if a link is secure? Use these anti-phishing tools to check

Going solo is risky.

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A friend sends you an email with a suspicious-looking link. Your mom texts you with a message containing an unknown website. A social media post promotes a new page. You may wonder how safe it is to click on these links… and then draw a blank on where to seek a second opinion. In the past, you’d have to ask trusted friends, but now, more free online services have begun to emerge to help you avoid phishing scams.

Here’s how they work: You input a website URL, a suspicious message or email, or even a screenshot of a QR code, and the tool checks whether there’s a phishing attempt or malicious software on the other end. Nowadays, being cautious about websites hosting malware is crucial, as simply visiting a site could trigger a “drive-by download” attack, meaning malicious code could automatically download and/or execute on your PC. This can happen without you manually initiating any downloads.

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NordVPN’s Link Checker is a free tool that anyone can use to analyze potentially problematic links.

NordVPN’s Link Checker is one of the recently released services. It’s a simple, straightforward tool launched to the public in January. Users input a website URL into the form and then wait for the results. Nord states that it relies on a combination of databases and machine learning for analysis.

Meanwhile, Bitdefender’s AI chatbot, Scamio, offers greater flexibility. Released in December last year, not only can you learn its opinion on links, but you can also inquire about messages and emails to see if they’re potential scams, along with screenshots of links (thus avoiding the risk of clicking on links by accident) and QR codes. Bitdefender does require an account to use Scamio, but registration is free.

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Bitdefender’s Scamio chatbot can analyze both text and screenshots.


Of course, these services aren’t entirely new—the Google Safe Browsing site status checker has been around for some time. But having more tools rather than fewer can be helpful, especially if the interface is more user-friendly, like Bitdefender’s Scamio.

Both Link Checker and Scamio don’t require a subscription to Nord or Bitdefender’s plans, but you can only perform manual checks through these tools. For free automatic filtering, you’ll need to install browser extensions provided by major antivirus companies such as Norton, Avast, AVG, Bitdefender, McAfee, and others. Alternatively, you can upgrade to a paid plan, such as NordVPN (which evaluates links whenever you surf online with a VPN) or a paid antivirus suite (which typically can automatically check links sent through chats or texts on your mobile device) for broader service protection.

But even with these free tools having some minor limitations (including the slow pace of AI chatbots and their ongoing learning curve), they’re still a good way to conduct intuitive checks. Especially since most of us might already be wary of clicking on these links and would rather contact the sender for more details. It never hurts to be sure you’re on the right track.

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